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Football and race, fact and fiction

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September 14 brings the release of two much-anticipated books with Arkansas ties. "Carry the Rock: Race, Football and the Soul of an American City" (Rodale, hardcover, $25.99) by Little Rock reporter Jay Jennings (formerly a reporter with Sports Illustrated) weaves the story of Bernie Cox's last winning season coaching the Central High football team with a nuanced, meticulously researched history of racial tension in Little Rock. And acclaimed novelist Rick Bass' "Nashville Chrome" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, hardcover, $24) offers a fictionalized account of Arkansas's first family of country, The Browns. The siblings Bonnie, Jim Ed and Maxine Brown, under the tutelage of Chet Atkins, achieved massive international success in the early '60s. Bass charts the band's rise, while looking back, through the eyes of a modern-day Maxine, as she dreams of returning to fame.

Looking ahead a little farther, John Grisham's umpteenth courtroom novel, "The Confession" (Doubleday, hardcover, $28.95), hits bookstores on Oct. 26. It's about a killer who finds unexpected resistance, when, late in life, he decides to confess a brutal crime for which another man is scheduled to be executed. In the meantime, there's always Grisham's first young adult novel, "Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer."

Even farther down the road: The follow-up to the story collection "The View from the Seventh Layer," by Little Rock novelist Kevin Brockmeier, has a release date. It's a novel called "The Illumination" (Pantheon, hardcover, $24.99). Here's a teaser: "What if our pain was the most beautiful thing about us? In the aftermath of a fatal car accident, a private journal of love notes written by a husband to his wife passes into the keeping of a hospital patient, and from there through the hands of five other suffering people, touching each of them uniquely."

Hendrix College announced its 2010-11 public events calendar last week. Its slate of authors, which last year included Art Spiegelman and Francine Prose, is equally impressive this year. Short short fiction master Lydia Davis is scheduled on Oct. 28 in what's billed as "An Evening of Humor with Lydia Davis." And wunderkind novelist and essayist Jonathan Safran Foer ("Everything Is Illuminated," "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close"), recently named one of the New Yorker's "20 under 40" novelists, comes to campus on Nov. 18 for a program called "Why Jews Laugh at Things That Aren't Funny."

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